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If you go to a bog at this time of year, you are apt to find a sea of white, cottony balls waving in the breezes.  These are the seed heads of Cottongrass (Eriophorum sp.), which are actually not grasses but sedges. (In contrast to grasses, which have hollow stems, the stems of most sedges are solid and triangular.) The similarity of these heads to cotton gave this plant its common name.

Cottongrass grows in acidic wetlands and bogs.  It tolerates cold weather well, and is found in the northern half of the U. S. as well as further north where it is food for migrating Caribou and Snow Geese on the tundra as well as Grizzly Bears and Ptarmigan.

The cottony seed plumes, which aid in the dispersal of Cottongrass seeds, are too short and brittle to be made into thread, but they have been used for pillow-stuffing, wound dressing and in the production of candle wicks and paper.

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14 responses

  1. Wanda Rice

    Sort of related, do you know of any usage of milkweed fluff?

    October 21, 2019 at 8:04 am

  2. Alice

    I don’t think I’m familiar with Cottongrass…need to go to a bog!

    October 21, 2019 at 8:35 am

  3. Cheron barton

    Have u seen this @ new London bog ever?

    Sent from my iPhone


    October 21, 2019 at 8:49 am

    • It’s at Cricenti Bog, but not nearly as prolific as pictured bog!

      October 21, 2019 at 9:23 am

  4. Marie

    Looks like a smaller of Bear Grass.

    October 21, 2019 at 8:54 am

  5. kathiefive

    It’s all over Isle au Haut! We are bog central. And cotton grass also makes beautiful braided wreaths.

    October 21, 2019 at 9:17 am

    • I have to get there some day, Kathie. I know i would fall in love with it!

      October 21, 2019 at 9:38 am

      • kathiefive

        Mary, I would love to host you and your dog whenever you can come!!

        October 21, 2019 at 9:40 am

  6. Suzy

    Pretty- wonder if we get that at our local bogs?

    Suzy Fried Sent from my iPhone


    October 21, 2019 at 9:54 am

  7. Bill On The Hill

    Thanks Mary… This is interesting. I did a little adventuring yesterday up the River Road heading towards Bath, NH & I think I observed some of this & naturally I didn’t have the camera gear with me as I observed some beautiful landscapes along the river banks with a late afternoon sun occasionally peaking through a gray overcast sky…
    Bill… :~)

    October 21, 2019 at 11:58 am

  8. Nancy Dean

    In Scotland, we call it Bog Cotton.

    Nancy Dean

    October 21, 2019 at 2:18 pm

  9. Char Delabar

    Thank you, Mary for this tidbit of info. What a fascinating world we live in, and how inventive mankind has become. Are there any bogs in our area that do have the Cottongrass? Char Delabar


    October 21, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    • I should know where you live, Char, but I don’t recall. If you’re near the Upper Valley, the Crecenti Bog in New London, NH has quite a bit of cottongrass!

      October 21, 2019 at 8:34 pm

  10. Corelyn Senn

    In Norwegian it is called Myrull–Myr Ull–Bog Wool

    October 22, 2019 at 7:18 am

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